Race Day (pt. 2)...The Full Circle Moment
It's late, I'm tired and I know this will not be finished tonight, but the thoughts of today's race are still blowing around in my mind, much like the wind we saw on Long Island today.
In addition to my half-marathon training, I decided to take on my first multi-sport race, a sprint distance duathlon that I have been wanting to do for years. It's a 2 mile run, followed by a 10.5 mile bike, followed by another 2 mile run. I was at this race 8 years ago, as a spectator. I remember looking at the women racing, thinking that I should be out there too, but I was taking care of babies and then busy getting divorced and then taking care of young children. A few years ago, it became an important goal of mine, as well as a mental hurdle. I hung the race description in my room and planned to get there. A few months ago, I still did not think it would be this spring. However, by adding in the run training to all the spinning I teach, it became a possibility.
As with the half-marathon, I was nervous, but this was a different situation. I looked up past results and knew, if I was strong that day, I could possibly get an age group placing. I did not tell this to anyone (except one good friend). I held the vision in my mind and I saw myself on the "podium." Sometimes, I really let my imagination run wild, and envisioned myself on the OVERALL podium, not just with a strong age-group finish. Tim would be there, but as a support only, relinquishing any coaching duties he had after the half-marathon was over. This was all me.
I had been doing "brick sessions" (going from biking to running or vice versa) out of necessity during half-marathon training because it was the only way I could fit in runs. However, these were mostly indoors. I'd go from the treadmill to the Spin room to the treadmill. My major goal for the duathlon was to put up a good bike split. I am a Spinning instructor, after all. I'd make sure I was taking my own advice and use good resistance during classes. Due to my busy schedule and the horrible weather we've been having in New York, I'd only completed one ride outside before race day, but it was strong and I was confident I was ready.
On the drive there, I asked Tim, who has completed numerous triathlons and 4 Ironman distance races, for his advice on my first multi-sport experience. Should I go easy on run #1, how about transition, etc?? He said three things: "Have fun. Be a kid. Hear me in your head telling you to slow down." Ugh. We followed with a discussion on being competitive and if it is healthy. I wanted to do well during this race, I was feeling really competitive, and I felt like I had something to prove. It was challenging for me to release this aspect of my thinking.
Arriving at a multi-sport race is an experience in itself. The bodies and the gear of the "top" competitors are often ridiculous. I can almost smell the testosterone in the air as people size one another up in transition....their bikes, their wheels, their toys, their gear. I tried to stay detached as I racked my bike and figured out my set-up for transition. And then, I took a deep breath. I was really doing this. After YEARS of spectating and supporting races and watching the nonsense unfold from outside the tape of the transition area, I was setting myself up inside of the tape. I knew no one who was doing the race. This was all mine.
Tim and I took a walk to calm me down. My achilles was still sore from the half-marathon the week before and from a few brick sessions during the week. I did not want to run on it before I needed to. Soon, we were told to line up, got some race briefings, and they sounded the horn. I set off at a good pace and felt really comfortable running. I knew I was running fast, but it was only 2 miles. When I hit the 1 mile marker, I looked down at my watch and had to look 2 more times. All I could think was, "Oh God, I ran that first mile waaaay to fast." I heard Tim in my head, "psssst...SLOW down." So, I did, a little. I came into transition, did my fumbling best for a first timer, and hit the bike.
This race is notoriously windy. The course is flat, but the wind presents a challenge. The forecast for the day was sunny (a welcomed break from all the rain we'd had) but WINDY. In fact, it was so windy that Tim advised me to rack my bike with my handlebars instead of my seat, because it looked like some of the bikes were going to blow off the racks. During the first section of the bike, I was flying. The wind was at my back and I opened it up. I was passing many other riders who probably thought I was going to blow up, but I needed to get in some speed before I hit the inevitable wall of wind. I knew there was a turnaround and that it was coming. Yet, all I could think about was how great it felt to be out on a stretch of road, no cars, just cruising along. I did feel like a kid and it was so much fun. Even before the turnaround, the wind shifted and was coming from the front right. Brutal. There was very little reprieve after the turnaround, and then it came from the left. A couple of gusts caught me and pushed my bike sideways. For the last section of the loop, it was head-on, dead-on, like hitting a brick wall. At times, I slowed over 10 MPH from my quickest pace. There were 3 loops...2 more times to go through it, and now that I had done 1, I knew the majority of it was spent fighting the wind.
I decided not to fight. I just kept breathing, kept myself as aero as possible and pushed through it, using it to my advantage when I had it. I heard my own voice from hundreds of Spinning classes, giving encouragement, and just dug deep through the rough sections. I continued to pass people and, I knew that, if I was riding with the guy whose back wheel was worth more money than my whole bike, I was having a good day. I kept people like that in sight, knowing I had put up a pretty good time and was thrilled with what I had done.
I was so psyched to be out of the wind on the last turn that I overshot the entrance back into transition. I somehow got focused on the signs for the bike mount and did not see signs or anyone flagging me into the dismount. I was confused, looking for it, and started asking where it was. Someone from the sidelines told me I missed it and a race official told me to get off and walk my bike back to the correct entrance. I let out a litany of curses, knowing I was wasting valuable time, trying to get back to where I should have been. While it was not clearly marked, it was also a rookie mistake, as I should have known exactly where I was to enter.
I crossed the timing pads flustered, with my hands shaking, racked my bike and got ready for the run. Tim followed me over and said three things over my left shoulder: "You are the third woman overall, have a strong run, and blue helmet who just came in is number 4." WHAT??? I was in total shock. ME? Third woman overall? I'll admit, I laughed and said, "Holy shit." Isn't this what I asked for? Going from just wanting to do a race, to racing for a top 3 finish is a whole different mindset. Since I am not as strong a runner, I knew I'd have to dig deep to hold the other women off. From the first step, my legs were wobbly and weak. I felt all the work my quads had done in the prior 30 minutes to push through the wind. As I hit the pavement, I started to catch a male runner ahead of me. He told me to go by, that he was cramping. He made some small talk as I passed and told me I was going to medal. I was struggling and blurted, "This is my first multi-sport race and I'm in third and she's behind me and she's fast and I think I went out to fast..and, and, and." He told me to just run, to use my arms, to drop my right shoulder and my chin and just run. He started feeling better and kept encouraging me as he stayed with me for a few strides and then moved ahead. I looked back. He told me not to look back. A few men passed me and then I saw a girl coming, fast. I knew I could not hold her off as I felt my pace slowing. It was a long mile and 1/2. I felt my shoes slipping and sinking into the mud on the trail. I felt my breath hard and heavy. I was tense. I told myself to breathe, over and over again. She caught and passed me and I resigned that, even if I was not overall, I had secured an age group placement and that was awesome for me. I ran hard the last half mile, knowing I was close, finished strong and felt unbelievable. Just when I had given up on my overall placement, I learned that the girl who had run past me was part of a relay. I knew I had been passed by no other women. If Tim's count was correct, third place was mine. We waited until they posted the overall results. As we scrolled the list, I knew it was true. I had placed third. I was that kid again, giving Tim a high-five and a hug and it felt so amazing. I did not stop smiling for a while.
It was Mother's Day, and my kids had not been at the race. It was a great moment to share with them how good I did, and to see them excited for me. I was high for the rest of the day. When the split times were posted, I learned that I tied for the second best female bike split and, if I had not messed up my entrance to transition, I would have been the fastest woman out there.
I do not train on a team and I do not ride an expensive road bike with all the bells and whistles. I work hard at what I have the time to do, taking full advantage of that time. I more than set a goal. I set the goal, and did both the physical and mental work. In my mind, I let myself see and feel what it would be like to place in a race. I put the energy out there before I even got to the start line. Did I manifest my result? Yes. I truly believe it. Just as I manifested all the road blocks before the last race, I created my results in this one. I let myself have the fun of going in my mind where I would otherwise be "embarrassed" to go. Remember, no one knows what you are thinking, you can dream as big as you want. However, you also have to believe it and do the work around it and feel the emotions of what it would be like to get where you want to go, wherever it is....
If you've read, thanks for taking this detour with me. There will be more races in my future, including a full marathon in the fall. For now, I'm going to clip back in to the Spin bike and have more profiles and playlists on the way. Happy Riding!